• Member of The Internet Defense League

Could Charlie Strong and Texas change football for the better?

Many of you are probably aware that I have been very critical of the game of football and the type of people/athletes that the game attracts. I’ve been pretty subtle about it, but yeah, it’s there.

I’ve never denied the possibility that football can be a game that encourages discipline, hard work and structure while being an enjoyable event. The problem is that it can be either that or a game of chaos and extreme brutality that encourages barbarism on and off the field, and recent years has shown much more of the latter occurring. Critics of mine can point out that bad eggs are present in all sports and walks of life, but that still can’t erase the fact that such individuals are coming out of the game of football much more frequently and with little to no outrage about it from the public.

But maybe, just maybe, that attitude could be on the verge of changing.

If there is a silver lining in seeing the horrific abuse that Ray Rice laid on Janay Palmer, it’s that it might have snapped enough people out of their state of denial and realized that abusive violence committed by football players (and yes, on a smaller scale, athletes in general) is a serious problem that not enough has been done about. Numerous other sports leagues like the NHL have cracked down on such actions, and done so without bungling it like Roger Goodell did with Rice.

But if there’s one event that might be a true sign of that, it would be standout Maryland high school quarterback Kai Locksley flipping his commitment at near the last moment and deciding to go to the University of Texas instead of Florida State.

The knock on Charlie Strong when Texas hired him was that he was too old-fashioned and hard. His tough, discipline-driven style could never win over kids in a world were recruits can get helicopter rides to campus from recruiters – add that to the list of complaints the spoiled boosters of the Whiny Orange have with Strong.

Well, so much for that theory. Texas signed a top 10 recruiting class last week, highlighted by linebackers Mailk Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler as well as the number one tight end according to ESPN, Devonaire Clarington.

But Locksley was the one Texas fans have to be jumping for joy over, seeing him as the solution the Horns need at quarterback after enduing the past season with Tyrone Swoopes. But it’s not just the fact that Strong landed this particular kid but where he poached him from where the change in football’s culture may lie.

I remember one of my Twitter followers saying that Strong’s best weapon in recruiting is “you win over the parent, you win the kid.” I think it’s safe to suggest that this was the case with Locksley, with Strong convincing his parents that Texas would be a much better place for their kid.

You can’t tell me that the horror stories coming out of Florida State, where not only was Jameis Winston accused of rape and stealing crab legs, but there has been a laundry list of incidents where FSU players committed heinous acts and the Tallahassee police simply looked the other way, started drawing concerns from the parents of talented but impressionable high school athletes.

Would you want to send your kid to an atmosphere like that?

It looks like Locksley’s parents did not. And when Strong came knocking on their door to offer a much different environment, the choice became obvious.

Texas was right there with Florida State for years, especially in the final years of Mack Brown’s term as coach. Players making headlines for the wrong reasons in the weeks leading up to bowl season were too common an occurrence for the program. Brown had always been known as someone who would coddle his players, but it was clear by the end that the inmates were running the asylum.

But things appear to be changing in Austin, with not just the new coach but a new athletics director and a new president on the way. If Steve Patterson will back his football coach and start telling the likes of Red McCombs to stay out of their business, the change could be complete.

It’s a new culture the Orangebloods should embrace. Brown’s practice of spoiling his players had to be a factor in his teams always underperforming for the talent they had. By contrast, Gary Patterson has built a tough winning program against the odds through strong discipline while still having the backs of his players. If Texas infuses that type of atmosphere in addition to the talent they can draw on the name alone, they could be the greatest force in college football.

There is how football could be used to make boys into better men – using the games intensity to focus them and learn the lessons of structure and boundaries, both on and off the field. It’s a practice that has been slipping away over the years in favor of a culture of chaos and unbridled brutality, and the results have been way too many stories on SportsCenter involving police reports.

Football needs such a shot in the arm, because with more and more stories like Rice and Winston and Aaron Hernandez along with a growing concern regarding concussions, more and more parents are showing concern over whether their kids should play that sport when there are plenty of other athletic options available. It’s a bigger problem than a lot of die-hard fans like Daniel Flynn want to admit, and something has to change if you want your beloved sport to endure.

Is it too soon to say things are definitely going to turn around? Perhaps.

But if the viewing public never forgets the horrors committed by people like Ray Race and are willing to embrace more people like Charlie Strong, maybe even this cranky, snarky sports fan and writer will find little to complain about regarding the game.

Rangers Shouldn’t Need the Russell Wilson Sideshow

Marc McLemore surely did not mind when the Rangers gave the No. 3 he had worn for years with the club to Alex Rodriguez, given what was expected of A-Rod when he came to Texas in 2001.

But you have to wonder what he feels of the person currently wearing that number in Surprise, AZ, right now.

The Rangers Spring Training facilities have suddenly become home to a media circus, with reporters from ESPN and the MLB Network and thousands of new fans in droves. But are they there to see the Rangers’ new acquisitions, or even the international star that is Yu Darvish?

No. All they care about is someone who’s chances of playing at Globe Life Park are beyond nil – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who the Rangers acquired in the Rule 5 Draft last December.

The throngs in Surprise Stadium with footballs, not baseballs, to sign, made it clear they didn’t give a crap about the actual baseball players. One even showed up with a sign reading, “Sorry Rangers’ Fans, We’re Here For Wilson.”

“Hopefully, the Dallas fans won’t get too mad,” Wilson told USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale.

Consider this one Rangers fan more than a bit perturbed.

This is not what should be getting the Rangers a front-fold sports story in The Nation’s News.

Instead of focusing on whether Prince Felder will turn his career around now that he’s in new territory or whether Shin Soo Choo will live up to expectations, this Rangers’ preseason has been overtaken with the question of whether the current NFL champion will become the next Bo Jackson.

Really? Does anyone really think that’s going to happen? Forget whether someone who so far has a .229 average in two years at the lowest level has a snowball’s chance in You-Know-Where of making a team with an infield of Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar – do you really think the Seahawks will allow their golden QB to take the field in another sport?

And there are definitely some within the baseball ranks not happy with Wilson taking up a Spring Training spot, like Giants pitching prospect Andrew Carignan, who Tweeted, “Hey, .230 hitters in A Ball, you want to go to a big league camp? Win a Super Bowl.”

The more I look at this, the more I get a bad gut feeling this has Ray Davis and Bob Simpson written all over it and that now that a certain strikeout king is no longer in North Texas, they feel free to churn out any sideshow-like activity that will draw the fringe media out there rather than actually let the club focus on the game itself.

General manager Jon Daniels is doing nothing to diffuse this situation, saying things like, “If we can just get Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake out here, we can take it to another level.”

Why? Why does a team that was in the freaking World Series less than three years ago and supposedly won this past off-season (which quite a few people seem to take stock in) need to send a sideshow from another sport in order to garner attention?

It seems the only one who is currently maintaining any sanity is Ron Washington, who has refused to allow Wilson to play the field or take batting practice.

Wash should get another year on his contract just for that decision alone.

He used the politically correct response of “Man, I can’t just do that. We wouldn’t be able to sleep the night on the half-percent chance that something would happen.”

I can’t help but wonder what the people in Seattle think of this. You would think they would be in an uproar that their meal ticket to football dynasty is even considering playing another sport. If so, it may be the first time Seattle fans and I ever agreed on anything. (Well, that and the fact that they got screwed out of their basketball team, but that’s another story.)

And before you accuse me of just being a whiner because of my well-known dislike of American football, let me ask this: What would you think if LeBron James showed up at Cowboys training camp in pads?

Do you think the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Dodgers would allow a sideshow like this to take over their preseason? This sadly goes to show once more, how little the Rangers are respected as an Organization and the lengths they must go to in order to garner attention.

That attention will all go away in a week or two when Wash is able to put that red card in Wilson’s locker (Do they still do that like they did in Major League?) signaling has being cut from Spring Training.

The good news: The real baseball players can get back to preparing for their season.

Gary Patterson Represents the Good in College Football

Randy Galloway doesn’t call them “The Whiny Orange” for nothing.

Within days of the University of Texas announcing Charlie Strong as its new football coach, the high-dollar boosters began moping that their Brinks trucks of orange money could not lure the likes of Nick Saban, Art Briles or Jon Gruden to Austin, led by Red McCombs going on San Antonio radio and coming off like the ultimate racist hick upset that a black man will lead his team for the first time ever.

I have heard from people with connections to the UT athletic department that essentially, people like McCombs are the reason no high-profile coach will come to UT. Sure, there are boosters like that at every major school, but UT’s base may be the absolute worst at having their claws sink into the department – unless people like Strong and new AD Steve Patterson can wrench them out.

Time for the Orangebloods to come down to earth: Texas is not THAT much better of a job than Alabama, a program that won six national championships before you won your first, And Briles? If you CAN beat them, don’t join them. And Gruden has such a cushy job with MNF that he should never coach again.

None of those coaches were going anywhere. But it’s amazing that one other coach was not in the running – unless it’s already accepted that he’s never going anywhere else. And that is among the reasons why that coach is one even I can salute.

People want me to say something good related to football? Here you go. With accused rapists leading their teams to national championships and programs getting slaps on the wrist for violations worse than what SMU did in the 80s, one shining beacon of hope has been the man running the show over in Fort Worth.

Who would have thought that Gary Patterson would still be the coach at TCU today? When Patterson took over for the departing Dennis Franchione in 2000, many thought that, at best, he could maintain what had been going for three years and then bolt for greener pastures like his predecessor.

Instead, what we have seen is nearly a decade and a half of Patterson running The Little Program That Could, causing fits to the big boys and the national sports pundits who kiss those schools’ butts. And his program is dang proud of it.

He wouldn’t stand for his team being disrespected for playing the “little sisters of the poor,” but he ultimately let his players answer that by beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and earning the program’s highest raking ever. He wouldn’t let the school’s constant shifting from conference to conference affect his program, which has consistently won from the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West.

What’s more, Patterson has proved that his program will be run with integrity. In the Frogs’ first ever Big 12 season, he did not hesitate to suspend his starting quarterback for drug use. Let’s see him do that, even for a greater offense, at UT or, say Florida State, and survive.

That brings us to another group of people that deserve some credit: The TCU boosters. They keep ponying up the cash to keep Patterson at their school, but they don’t meddle. They trust that he’s doing the right thing. And that’s why Patterson should get the time he needs to build the program to the level where it can compete with Texas and Oklahoma consistently. Hey, if Baylor found a way to do it…

He might have gotten more money going somewhere else. But by staying at TCU, he has achieved something more valuable: The status of a legend.

Maybe I’m naive, but it’s starting to look like the attitudes of college coaches may be changing. The practice of breaking contracts to get more money at a “high-level” program may not be happening as often as people think. Why take a few million more for the headaches of unrealistic expectations if you can still get a good salary AND the chance to do something really special where you are?

And if that mindset is beginning to take hold, a lot of credit should go to Gary Patterson, whether he meant to or not, for making it popular.

Aledo May Not Be Bullies, But UIL Still Needs to Address Things

DFWSportatorium - Logo6

Figured the time would come when I’d have to talk about this sport.

The phenomenon that is high school football in Texas has now exploded into national headlines following one of the most lopsided games in history, when Aledo High beat Fort Worth Western Hills 91-0. It wasn’t the score itself that drew the attention; it was one parent going so far as to file an accusation of “bullying” on Aledo’s team for what they did.

Bullying? Yeah, that is probably taking it to an extreme. And it once again has led to the same wave of people doing their own whining about the “wussification” of America.

But there is a deeper issue here that may be being overlooked by those rolling their eyes at one whining parent. And amazingly, it was a caller to one of Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket’s shows that addressed it.

That issue is that it makes no sense for Aledo to be in Class 4A (the second level of Texas high school athletics) and in District 7 with mostly Fort Worth ISD schools.

Aledo clearly has 5A-level talent, regularly sending players off to college like Jonathan Gray, now carrying the ball for the Texas Longhorns.  FWISD schools, meanwhile, are stretched so thin on athletes that many of their football teams have to play two ways out of necessity.

And yes, I can personally vouch for this. Back when I was broadcasting high school games while in college, there was one game with Arlington High facing off against Paschal (which was amazingly at the 5A level). Looking over at the Paschal sideline and seeing so few players there while the teams were on the field, my partners and I couldn’t help but reference the 1990s movie Necessary Roughness.

The numbers about how unfairly better Aledo is against its competition speak for themselves. The Western Hills game was just the most extreme example. With a schedule against no schools above the 4A level and one 3A school (according to Press Box Services), Aledo has yet to score fewer than 44 points in a game or allow more than 16. The average score of their district games this year has had them winning 84-7.

That doesn’t mean those players should be ashamed of putting up scores like that. Nor does it justify anyone going so far as to file a complaint that the school now must investigate by state law.

But neither does it mean the Western Hills players deserve to be struck back by elitist sports writers and personalities (many of whom probably didn’t even play anything past the junior high level) saying, “Hey you guys need to just accept the fact that you’re a bunch of pathetic losers who don’t deserve to ever set foot on a football field ever again.” Especially when it wasn’t the players who filed this claim. THAT could be a greater claim of bullying.

Who knows what will eventually come from this case. But if there is hope, it will be the realization that the UIL, the University of Texas-based governing body of Texas high school sports, needs to make serious changes to its alignment policies.

It’s dumb enough that the UIL for some reason has to re-structure the districts every two years, meaning Arlington high schools are now playing against the likes of Weatherford instead of Grand Prairie or Mansfield. But clearly student enrollment is not a good enough barometer for deciding what class level a school should be in.

No, you can’t fault the Aledo players for continuing to play hard in a game. But they should be doing it against 5A schools because that’s clearly where their talent level is at. Right now, them being at 4A is like the University of Kentucky basketball team playing at the Division II or III level.

This is more than just the issue of the remaining schools in District 7 and the rest of Class 4A not having a fair chance against a grossly superior program. There is the risk of damaging the Aledo players by giving them a false sense of confidence and the belief that everything is going to come easy for them because they are not being tested. It would be a whole lot different if they were up against the likes of Euless Trinity or Southlake Carroll.

Yes, an accusation of “bullying” because of a high school football game may be too much. But it doesn’t

Cowboys Should Raze the Roof Instead of Rangers Raising It

DFWSportatorium - Logo6

I get a lot of criticism for claiming the Rangers aren’t appreciated in North Texas despite their recent success. And yes, if you base it on the attendance figures of the last two to three years, that criticism of my words is valid.

Like I said earlier, my beef primarily lies in television ratings and the like, but I will not deny the bottom line of winning has made a positive impact on their gate receipts.

Amazing, however that drawing that many in the last few years has done nothing to quell one of the biggest complaints about the team.

How can we praise our attendance figures and then claim that our Ballpark is hurting our chance at great attendance figures – to say nothing of the performance on the field?

I’m talking, of course, about the claim of how no one wants to go to the Ballpark because they can’t take the heat.

Despite all the good times the last few years in Arlington – and yes, these times ARE good – the complaints remain about the Rangers playing in an open-air outdoor ballpark in an area where in the summer double digit temperatures mean a cool front. There continue to be calls – mostly from the media, I will admit – for this franchise to start putting that Ray Davis and Bob Simpson money into building a roof over the Ballpark so the fans – and maybe the players – no longer have to suffer under Mother Nature’s wrath.

Does everyone really not see how ludicrous this sounds when you really think about it? Are we actually complaining that the Rangers, who play a game designed to be played on grass and dirt, actually have it be played OUTOORS??

Well, that’s because the Rangers can’t win constantly playing in the heat. It always wears them down and they are guaranteed to falter in the late months every single year. Unless you give them the comfort of playing indoors, they have no chance of going deep in October and reaching the World Series.

Except they did. Twice.

And that little bit about them not being able to pitch in the heat? The team ERA in each of the last four years: 3.93 (4th), 3.79 (5th), 3.99 (7th) and 3.62 (4th). Four straight years with a pitching staff in the top half of the American League – three of them in the top third.

Meanwhile, those same people who complain about Rangers Ballpark continue to gush and wax poetic on the Boss Hogg Bowl next door (I think it got a new name, sounds like some phone company, ah who cares) and how its enclosed roof and climate control are perfect for how all sports should be played in the 21st century.

(Yeah, can we stop calling it a retractable roof stadium yet? I’m more likely to get a date before the next time Jerry opens that roof, and I’ve already confined myself to dying alone.)

In other words, just another example of how the Cows do everything right and the Rangers CAN’T do anything right.

One problem, though. While the Rangers, with that horrible outdoor ballpark, have become one of the best teams in baseball on the field and at the gate, the Cows… well, the Cows suck, there’s no way around that.

Oh, the Cows still sell out games despite being one of the most unsuccessful teams for the past 17 years, and that has stuck in my craw for a long time. But now that I’ve thought of it more, why should it? The place may be selling out, but it’s not selling out with Cow fans.

Ask anyone who was at last Sunday’s game and they will likely mope about how many Bronco fans infested the home of “America’s Team” – just like the Bears and Steelers did last year. This actually makes a lot of sense. With five-figure seat licenses and 70 dollar parking, Jerry has made it impossible for most Cow fans to regularly come to his disguised country club. So while his teams fans are stuck watching on the screens at Hooters, visiting team fans will gladly use their saved vacation money to mark one more stadium off their tour list and see the pompous Cowboys get beat by their team.

Instead of trying to go on about why the Rangers need a roof, how about answering the question of why the COWBOYS need one?

Why does a team that plays in a region where the temperature rarely drops below 70 degrees before December and rarely below 50 before the new year have to play in enclosed climate control?

If anything, playing indoors could very well be a factor to the Cows’ failures – all that pampered comfort only produces a soft team that can’t handle the harsh elements in New York or Philadelphia come December.

Oh, sure, that theory has to be preposterous. Except that sonce the Cows last saw aSuper Bowl, 14 of the last 17 Super Bowl champions played home games outdoors. And 13 of them were in cold weather cities.

Heck, try telling a Packers fan in Green Bay that Lambeau Field needs a roof on it. They might give you a five minute head start to get out of town before the pitchfork crowd comes chasing (People in Wisconsin are nice like that).

So let’s recap: Since 2009 when JerryWorld opened, the Cows, with their luxurious, comfortable, climate controlled atmosphere, have a winning percentage 0f 50 percent, have won one playoff game and are only selling out because they don’t pull a San Antonio Spurs and deny ticket sales to anyone north of the Red River. The Rangers, meanwhile, playing outdoors in the unbearable “blast furnace” of the Texas summer heat, have four straight 90-win seasons with two trips to the World Series and have not only somehow become one of the top draws in baseball but have crowds that are actually supporting the home team.

Maybe instead Jerry should take a wrecking ball to his roof so his players – and fans in the stands – can get tougher.

But hey, maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here in using Rangers vs. Cowboys in the indoors vs. outdoors debate. Maybe I should find an actual baseball team that plays in doors to compare the Rangers to… like the Houston Astros…